Published on July 3, 2016
The Munsters is an American television sitcom depicting the home life of a family of benign monsters. It stars Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster and Yvonne De Carlo as his wife, Lily Munster. The series was a satire of both traditional monster movies and the wholesome family fare of the era, and was produced by the creators of Leave It to Beaver. It ran concurrently with the similarly macabre themed The Addams Family and achieved higher figures in the Nielsen ratings.
The series originally aired on Thursday at 7:30 pm on CBS from September 24, 1964, to May 12, 1966; 70 episodes were produced. It was cancelled after ratings dropped to a low due to the premiere of ABC’s Batman, which was in color. Though ratings were low during its initial two-year run, The Munsters found a large audience in syndication. This popularity warranted a spin-off series, as well as several films, including one with a theatrical release.
On October 26, 2012, NBC aired a modern reimagining of The Munsters called Mockingbird Lane as a pilot. The series failed to be picked up by NBC despite success with Munster fans and good ratings.
The Munsters live at 1313 Mockingbird Lane in the city of Mockingbird Heights, a fictional suburb in California. The running gag of the series was the family, while decidedly odd, consider themselves fairly typical working-class people of the era. Herman, like many husbands of the 1960s, is the sole wage-earner in the family, though Lily and Grandpa make (short-lived) attempts to earn a little money from time to time. While Herman is the head of household, Lily makes many decisions, too. According to the episode in which Lily and Herman Munster were both trying to surprise one another for their anniversary, they were married in 1865. Despite the novel approach of the family being (mostly) supernatural creatures (except for niece Marilyn, who is “normal”), the show followed the typical family sitcom formula of the era—the well-meaning father, the nurturing mother, the eccentric live-in relative, the naïve teenager and the precocious kid.
The costumes and appearances of the family members other than Marilyn were based on the classic monsters of Universal Studios films from the 1930s and 1940s. Universal produced The Munsters as well, and was thus able to use these copyrighted designs, including their iconic version of Frankenstein’s monster for Herman. Other studios were free to make films with the Frankenstein creature, for example, but could not use the costume and style of make-up originally created by Jack Pierce for the 1931 Universal Studios film Frankenstein. The make-up for the show was created and applied to the actors by Bud Westmore, who pioneered many make-up effects and designs for many of the Universal monster movies.
Herman Munster Fred Gwynne
Lily Munster (née Dracula) Yvonne De Carlo
Grandpa (Count Sam Dracula) Al Lewis
Eddie Munster Butch Patrick
Marilyn Munster Beverley Owen
The Raven Mel Blanc